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Annan 'very pleased' with US decision to position forces off Liberia

25 July United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan today welcomed the decision by the United States to position troops near Liberia to support deployment of West African forces to stabilize the war-torn country, and he called on other states to join in providing necessary backing on an urgent basis.

"The Secretary-General was very pleased to learn that today President [George W.] Bush has directed the Secretary of Defence to position 'appropriate military capabilities' off the coast of Liberia in order to support the deployment" of forces from the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), said a statement by a UN spokesman.

"The Secretary-General believes that this is an important measure, which should accelerate the deployment of the ECOWAS forces and the subsequent multinational forces to stabilize the situation in Liberia," the statement added. "The Secretary-General calls on other Member States in a position to do so to join the United States in providing the necessary support, on an urgent basis, to facilitate the early deployment of the ECOWAS forces."

Mr. Annan voiced continuing deep concern over the ongoing hostilities in Liberia, particularly in the capital Monrovia, where indiscriminate shelling has resulted in a large number of civilian casualties and the fighting has created an acute humanitarian crisis.

"The Secretary-General calls upon the LURD (rebel Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy) and the forces of the Government of Liberia to cease hostilities immediately and to cooperate in the deployment of the ECOWAS forces and in facilitating the delivery of much needed humanitarian assistance," the statement concluded.

Mr. Annan's Special Representative for Liberia, Jacques Paul Klein, told reporters yesterday that Nigeria had agreed to send two battalions as the vanguard of a broader engagement by ECOWAS and the international community.

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